Excerpts from Your Adolescent on Talking About Sex with your Teen
As daunting a task as it may seem, this is one of the more important jobs of parenthood. Teenagers need not only the biological basics they get in health and hygiene classes at school - they need parental guidance, too. Thoughtful but frank talk about sexuality before sexual experimentation begins may also open lines of future communication about your teen's sexual concerns and behavior. If you're afraid of this subject and keep avoiding it, your youngster may develop the same attitude and may avoid discussion and sharing with you. Be honest and sensitive as you employ some of the following strategies for discussing sex with your teen:
Be proactive rather than reactive.
Teens often say they'd like to discuss sex with their parents but can't seem to get the words out. Don't wait for your teen to come to you. Initiate the discussions yourself. Teens whose parents discuss sex openly with them are more likely to wait to have sexual intercourse than their uninformed counterparts. The issues of pregnancy and contraception are equally important for boys and girls to understand.
Give her permission to say no. If you issue an edict that under no circumstances is the teen to have intercourse, don't be surprised if she rebels by doing just that. On the other hand, she's more likely to feel good about saying no if you help her understand why that is a wise option. For example, you might want to acquaint her with some common ploys, such as If you love me, you'll sleep with me, and so on. Let her know that a truly loving relationship between two people doesn't involve coercion.
Avoid trying to scare her into abstinence.
If your teen is feeling rebellious, scare tactics may push her over the edge or scare her so badly that later it will prove a burden to enjoying an adult sexual relationship.
Help her understand that sex is more than intercourse. Sex is an act that also involves the feelings of both partners. Let her know that there are ways to express her sexuality without having intercourse before she is ready. She should be aware that it is not all or nothing. She can enjoy a physical relationship without having intercourse.
Respect her privacy.
The minute your teen walks in the door from a date, don't demand to know what happened that evening. Let her know that you trust her. Stress, however, that if she is being sexually active or considering it, you expect her to behave responsibly.
Try to avoid overreacting.
If your teen comes to you with a question about AIDS, for example, don't automatically assume the adolescent has been exposed to the virus. Simply answer the question without accusations or jumping to conclusions. Later ask if there was a particular reason for the question. Use this topic as a way to keep channels open. Don't insist there must be some secretive reason for the curiosity.
If, despite your efforts, you just can't discuss sex with your teen, have someone stand in for you-?your spouse, perhaps a relative or a trusted friend, your teen's doctor, or a favorite teacher. If your teen has been active in church, then a trusted member of the clergy may also be helpful.